Hi! Hello. I made a small movie about a small particle accelerator.
But first. A public apology to the woman who cut my hair the other day. (And who is definitely reading this right now?) I’m sorry I made you talk about physics.
For the 100% of you who are not the lady who cut my hair, I will explain. Briefly. During a lull in standard-issue haircut conversation, Haircut Lady asked me what I did for work. My internal dialogue went like this:
- I should just tell her I’m a scientist and leave it at that. Supplying more information is an implicit assumption that she wants to hear me say a lot of science stuff.
- On the other hand, I’m going to be sitting in this chair for a long time and physics is fun to talk about.
- On the other hand, plenty of people have told me that they hated physics in high school and they don’t know anything about it now. She might be one of those people.
- While I’m sitting here thinking, an awkward pause is stretching out into weird, uncomfortable seconds. I should just say what I do for a living. I shouldn’t be so hung up about this. Daniel! Have a conversation with a stranger! Go!
Anyway, so I tried a little experiment. I told her what I do, and then I asked her what she thought of when I said “particle accelerator”. Not like a pop quiz! I wasn’t looking for a specific answer. (I said that, too.) Instead, I think scientists have a responsibility to clearly communicate their work to the general public. If the general public knows what we do, then we’re doing a good job of communicating. And if they don’t, we obviously aren’t doing a good enough job.
Your homework for tonight: What do you think of when you think about particle accelerators? What would you draw if you had to draw one? Describe it in the comments below!
Dear Haircut Lady, I’m sorry that I put you on the spot because I was curious about abstract ideas. You handled it very gracefully.
For the curious: she had the general idea that accelerators are sort of like a laser beam, but wasn’t clear on what they might be useful for. I think this is where most people are at.
Which brings me to this video I made! A colleague at work had this little science demo that she let me play with, and I had so much fun I wanted to share it. Here we go!
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